The virtual tour market has experienced a significant surge in demand, reaching a value of just under $1 billion in 2023 and is projected to grow to nearly $18 billion by 2035, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28% between 2024 and 2035.

A report from Allied Market Research noted the surge in demand for immersive online experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic helped drive adoption across various industries, from real estate and travel to education.

Meanwhile, advancements in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies have significantly improved the quality and accessibility of virtual tours, contributing to the growth of the virtual tour market.

The report also noted businesses are increasingly leveraging virtual tours as a potent marketing tool to showcase their products or services in a visually engaging manner, further propelling market growth.

The 3D virtual tour segment is poised to maintain its leadership status throughout the forecast period, accounting for over two-fifths of the global virtual tour market revenue in 2023.

This dominance is attributed to the intricate details and interactive options that 3D virtual tours offer, making them highly versatile for deployment across web platforms or packaged into mobile and desktop apps.

By industry, tourism is expected to hold the highest market share, driven by the increasing adoption of immersive VR experiences and the accessibility of virtual tourism destinations.

Breaking down the growth by region, Asia-Pacific is projected to lead the market by 2035, fueled by the region’s expanding internet access and growing demand for virtual tour solutions across multiple sectors.

An October 2023 report from The Insight Partners valued the global VR market at $58.7 billion and projected it would reach nearly $442 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 28.7% from 2022 to 2030.

Back in 2021, Boston-based startup Cuseum, which develops digital services and AR experiences for museums, published a study focused exclusively on virtual programs in the cultural sector.

Of the over 500 museum professionals surveyed, approximately 92% said that their institution offers some kind of digital programming, and virtual tours were a part of this equation, especially amongst art museums.

“We’ve seen continuing interest and adoption of various technologies over the past few years in the sectors we serve,” said Brendan Ciecko, founder and CEO of Cuseum. “Especially since March 2020, we have witnessed the rapid acceleration of digital priorities, transforming content, strategy, and infrastructure at cultural institutions faster than ever.”

He said he’s confident there will be “very compelling growth “and opportunities at the intersection of virtual tours and education, including museums, art and cultural experiences.

“I’m excited about the role that augmented reality, virtual reality, and other technologies will play in pushing access, customer experience, and satisfaction forward in the cultural sector,” Ciecko said.

He added emerging technologies would continue to evolve and become more integral as an additional lens through which audiences can engage with culture.

Specific to augmented reality, in user research the Cuseum team conducted, 9 out of 10 users reported that AR made it easier for them to access information and was an exciting new way for them to learn.

“While there is still a long way to go before immersive technologies become ubiquitous in the cultural sector, there are early signs of both its power and utility,” Ciecko said.

Tuong Nguyen, Gartner director analyst specializing in VR/AR technologies, pointed out the potential for virtual tours is as broad and as deep as any experience that’s available—and in some cases can go beyond the possible.

“You could build destinations that don’t exist, like a Tolkein-inspired world, or a place you simply can’t take people to, like Neptune,” he said. “The point here is it is a tool and experience meant to complement or extend current tools or experiences, not replace them.”

Nguyen said that while the pandemic gave a big push that allows for richer connections across long distances and spurred trends like real estate companies to offer virtual tours to homebound prospective buyers, the technology still has a long way to develop.

“It’s more mature, but it’s not mature,” he said. “The tools aren’t quite there yet, but once we get over that hump, we’re going to get somewhere.”